Which fence is mine? Fencing boundaries

Land boundaries can become complex issues; there are more rules than you may think and processes that should be followed to definitively set out where your land ends and that of your neighbour begins.

So what are your fence boundaries? Below, you’ll find some FAQs around boundary issues and some helpful advice to make your research, and life, a little easier.

Who can show me where the fence boundary is?

You may first start by looking for a boundary feature – a physical marker for land boundaries such as a wall, fence or a hedge. However, in lieu of these, you may look to your title deeds. This is, of course, dependent on how much detail you are looking for. Title deeds can show you the general boundaries and can be obtained for any registered property in England and Wales. Usually, the exact boundaries would be agreed between yourself and your neighbour(s) in a boundary agreement. The title deeds will show any details of this, including any past boundary agreements there, may have been. If you are creating a new document, make a copy and be sure that it is signed by both parties to cover any potential future disputes.

What if it’s too high or wide?

There is no law regarding boundary features – who owns them or is responsible for which side. If there is an existing boundary agreement or if you are looking to create one with a neighbour, this document would usually spell out the agreed specifics on the matter, including height, width, and issues such as maintenance.  However, if you are hoping to reduce the height or width of the feature, then this would only be possible if it is outside of the limits set by your local authority. It is simply a matter of planning policy – your local planning authority office should be able to provide information regarding allowances for height and width.

As an example, let’s say you want your neighbour to reduce the height of his/her fence because it blocks light from your property. If your neighbour’s fence is within the locally set limits measured from the ground on which is stands – an important consideration if the land is sloped – then there would be nothing you could do. In these situations, it may be more worth considering the issue of privacy; you may not want to increase your neighbours view onto your land or even into your home, and vice versa.

What if parts of the land are unregistered?

A great number of people refer to this type of land as ‘no man’s land’, assuming that because it is not registered, it is therefore not owned by anyone. This is not the case; all land in England and Wales is owned by somebody, even if it is not possible to identify the rightful owner. The reason this land remains unregistered is that it has never been sold, and large areas under these circumstances are likely to be owned by the Crown, the aristocracy or the Church. For example, the ownerless property can pass to the Crown by law – ‘Bona Vacantia’.

Some ways to find out are: ask neighbours and residents as well as businesses and the local Post Office to find out if they have any ideas about who might own it. You also have the option to check adjoining registered properties’ title deeds for clues, or even checking your local authority records and the electoral register. If you are looking to ‘do something’ on or with the land, for example, to put a sign-up, it would be advisable to check with a solicitor to confirm whether this would be acceptable – by taking action without first researching and seeking advice, you may be acting against the law.

Can I use the deeds to my advantage?

It is important to note here that copies of deeds cannot be used to prove ownership, for example in a court case. You can, however, find past and present details about registered properties by requesting copies of these documents. Retrieving them does entail a small fee to pay during the application process, but this opens the door to a wealth of information such as previous owners, exact boundary agreements and more details about rights over adjoining land. What is also worthy of note here is that the Land Registry does not inform anyone of the request for information; due to the Freedom of Information Act, they only do so if and when they are asked. This does, however, work both ways; you can’t opt out of your documents being published, so do keep this in mind.

How do I resolve a fencing dispute? 

Perhaps you want to install a new resin driveway or your neighbour’s trees and blocking light? In an ideal world, we would look to avoid disputes altogether – boundary disputes tend to arise, generally, because of one landowner’s lack of consideration for another. Although, these things do happen, and they can become complex.

Firstly, it would be important to apply to have your boundary agreement (signed by both parties) added to your title deed. This would future-proof you and your neighbour from any possible disputes that may arise. For a £90 fee, you can have a surveyor draw up a detailed boundary plan and send this to Land Registry. Include in your application your payment, and any agreements with your neighbours. If you can’t send a signed agreement with this, Land Registry will reach out to your neighbours to ensure they’re happy with your plans. If they are not, the case will be referred to First-Tier Tribunal. You may need to attend a hearing. Be aware that the Tribunal is independent of government; a judge will hear both sides before making a decision as to what will be done. Before you appeal to the Tribunal, you may want to get help and advice from a lawyer.

As you can see, there are plenty of rules and regulations surrounding this area, involving more than one regulatory body. If you follow the advice set out above and remain a considerate neighbour, you will avoid disputes, penalties and potentially long and arduous processes. We want you to stay on your neighbour’s good side.

Visit fencing suppliers in Kent Four Seasons Fencing for more information and advice on fencing.